The first three months of a newborn baby's life are often referred to as 'the fourth trimester' and there are studies that have shown babies are soothed by conditions that emulate those in the womb. One such example is swaddling. Not sure what to do, or why? Here's a quick guide and a few swaddling tips and tricks to try.
Swaddling helps to comfort baby and creates the feeling of being held, much like when in utero. Being held closely and securely also stifles the startle reflex, which is a normal reflex that babies are born with.The startle reflex often wakes new babies- if you've ever seen a baby jerk her arms suddenly, you'll know what I mean. When babies are swaddled, they are unable to jerk their arms uncontrollably and therefore are able to sleep a lot more soundly. Some babies calm down straight away when they are swaddled, and this can be a wonderful way to get your baby to sleep a little better too. Another benefit of swaddling is that there is often no need for extra blankets in the crib.
How to swaddle
If you think that you'd like to try swaddling your baby, here's how to do it.
- Use a specially designed swaddle blanket. These are usually secured with velcro fasteners and full instructions will be included with the product information.
- Make you own swaddle blanket. Use a thin, square shaped blanket or muslin and fold (instructions further down) around baby to swaddle securely. Make sure all loose fabric is tucked in!
- Check the temperature of the room before adding more blankets to baby.
If you use a swaddle blanket
Always read the product information and make sure that you fasten it up securely, but not too tightly. Make sure that baby can still move arms and legs (as they did whilst in the womb). If your blanket does not have velcro fastenings or poppers, make sure all fabric is tucked in and nothing is loose.
If you use a square blanket
There is an art to swaddling, but really there is no right or wrong way to do it. Here is our tried and tested method:
- Take your blanket and place on a firm, flat surface in a diamond shape, so that one corner is at the top.
- Fold the top corner underneath like this:
- Place baby on top of the blanket with her shoulders in line with the fold
- Bring baby's arms to her chest (never by her sides) and fold the left corner over baby and tuck under her bottom.
- Take the bottom corner up to baby's tummy and tuck securely into the top of the blanket going across baby's chest.
- Bring the right corner over baby and tuck under baby's bottom, making sure the end is tucked into the the top of the swaddle at the back.
It's important to swaddle safely. Here are some guidelines to help you.
- Always place baby on her back to sleep.
- Never wrap baby too tightly- make sure she can still move her arms and legs. This is important to ensure correct development of the legs and hips. Studies have found that wrapping baby too tightly can lead to problems such as hip displasia so do make sure that your wrap is not too tight.
- Don't have any loose blankets or toys in baby's crib.
- Make sure the temperature of the room is ok and only add a blanket if it is really cold.
- Use a thin blanket, muslin or sheet.
- Be aware of the clothes that baby is wearing under the swaddle and make sure that she is not overheating.
- When baby is able to roll over, it is time to stop swaddling. This is because baby will be unable to roll back with her arms swaddled.
- Always keep baby in the same room as you when she sleeps swaddled.
- The idea of swaddling is that your baby feels safe and secure, not restricted. Never place blankets higher than the shoulders and check regularly for blankets near the face.
- If baby starts to 'wriggle free' allow them to do so- most will self wean from the swaddle around 2-3 months old.
Do you swaddle your baby?